It’s Personal: Moving Immigration Reform Forward for AAPI Heritage Month

By Moof Mayeda, Task Force Deputy Director of the Academy for Leadership and Action

This month is Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) heritage month and it is a time for reflection on both our past and on the future we would like to see. As the Task Force’s Deputy Director of the Academy for Leadership and Action, I work every day organizing grassroots campaigns to bring justice and liberation to all LGBTQ people, including the  more than 250,000 undocumented LGBTQ immigrants in this country.  And as a queer, Japanese American, gender non-conforming person, I am passionate about building an LGBTQ movement that celebrates our diverse identities and our diverse heritage.

During World War II, one side of my family was in Japan and the other was in the United States. My paternal grandmother, Yoshiye Mayeda, who was born and raised in the US, was put in an internment camp while her husband served in the Military Intelligence Service with other Japanese Americans. After the war ended, my maternal grandmother, Haruko Miyamoto, moved her while family from Japan to the US, including my mom, who was just a kid at the time. When other Japanese Americans ask me what generation I am (a fairly common question, in my experience), I’m not sure what to say, because it’s complicated and different on each side of the family. I sometimes tell them I’m “no sé,” which is a Spanish take on “Nikkei” (second generation) that means “I don’t know.” Like many other Japanese Americans, the men in my family were gardeners, because it was often the only work they could get, regardless of their educational or employment background. Whether or not you’re documented, immigrants face social, political, and economic barriers. What my family’s story taught me is that my American-ness can be challenged at any time because of my race.

As we celebrate Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, I reflect on my family’s history in this country and about our nation’s broken immigration system. Through the Task Force’s Naming Our Destiny program, which builds the power of queer and trans people of color organizations, I worked with API Equality LA on an immigration reform campaign. I helped them plan and execute weekly phone banks to call their members and get supporters to contact their legislators. It was very moving to talk openly with volunteers and members about why immigration reform matters to us, personally. There is such a diversity of experience in “the Asian American community,” which is made up of hundreds of distinct and varied cultures and ethnicities. API Equality LA successfully mobilized over 50 volunteers at their phone banks and generated hundreds of calls to legislators urging them to pass immigration reform.

While the struggle for fair and comprehensive immigration reform continues, LGBTQ immigrants are still hard at work building a movement that celebrates all of who we are, where we get to be our full queer and trans and brown and yellow and immigrant selves.  Right now, there are 11 million undocumented immigrants who lack access to all the things that make up the promise of America. 250,000 of these people are LGBTQ and some are from our communities.   The Task Force is at the forefront of the fight for fair immigration reform. Last year the US Senate passed a bipartisan immigration reform package. Today we are still waiting for Speaker Boehner to bring this vitally important and popular measure to the floor of the House. As he delays, families face economic hardship and the heartbreak of separation through deportation. The situation is so critical that Task Force executive director Rea Carey was arrested in a civil disobedience outside the U.S. House of Representatives to protest its inaction on immigration reform.

Join us in celebrating Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month by telling your member of congress that we need fair immigration reform now.

To call your Member of Congress:
US Capitol Switchboard (202) 224-3121

To locate your Member on-line:
U.S. House of Representatives: